Pope Francis on May 10, 2018, made a day pilgrimage to two central Italian communities that exist for the purpose of being Christian and spreading the word of God.
First stop: Nomadelfia. Vatican News reported that the Holy Father was met by a delegation of the community’s leaders and called them a “prophetic reality that aims to bring about a new civilization, implementing the Gospel as a form of life that is good and beautiful.” He continued:
“The law of brotherhood, that characterizes your life, was the dream and goal of the whole existence of Fr. Zeno, who wanted a community of life inspired by the model outlined in the Acts of the Apostles.”
The Fr. Zeno the Pope mentions was Fr. Zeno Saltini, son of wealthy farmers of Carpi, who founded the community in 1947 on the site of a former prison camp. It is a community where property – and work – is held in common and foster care provided for orphans.
The Pope’s second stop: Loppiano, home base of the Focolare Movement, founded by Chiara Lubich in1943. (Read this ZENIT feature to learn more.)
Lubich founded Loppiano in 1964 as a place to put the ideals of the movement she founded into practice. It has only a couple hundred permanent residents, but several times that many people are typically present to attending the movement’s training facilities. And the community is the headquarters of Focolare.
For the Pope’s brief visit, the population swelled to around 7,000, according to Vatican News.
The Pope talked with the crowd and answered questions from Focolare members, especially around the best way to blend their strong tradition with a changing culture. He had some advice, stressing the importance of “memory”:
“Just as the fruits of a tree are possible because the tree has roots, if you have no memory, you will be uprooted and will not be able to bear fruits”. Look to the future with “trustful fidelity” and with “generous creativity” and“bear substantial fruits, at the service of its mission to proclaim and live the Gospel of Jesus in the way the Church is called to live today…This calls for humility, openness, synergy and the capacity to take risks.”
The Holy Father explained that the challenge is to remain faithful to the movement’s original inspiration – but also be open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And stay close to Mary.
“Mary takes the Word and goes forward, because she is a woman of faith, a woman of creativity, a woman of courage, of parrhesia, a woman of patience and of enduring things,” he said. “Always look to her, he said, a layperson, the first disciple of Jesus, at how she behaved during all the difficult and passages of her son’s life. It will help you a lot”.